Halo multiplayer is always a contentious topic. Due to the series being around for so long, and people jumping on at various phases throughout its lifecycle, everyone has a different opinion on the particulars of what makes Halo, Halo. For purists in the Halo 2 and 3 era, multiplayer should not include sprinting or the ability to aim-down-sights (ADS). For those who have evolved with the games from Halo: Reach onwards, Spartan abilities have become a defining staple of the multiplayer experience. That’s only the broad strokes too. The nuances from Halo 2 to Halo 3, or Halo: Reach and Halo 4 are significant as well. Ask anyone which game they feel is the pinnacle of Halo multiplayer and you’ll get wildly different answers.
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That’s why asking, “which game is Halo Infinite closest to?” is an important one. Who is going to be best served, what should fans of the series expect? A selection of players got their first answers to those questions this weekend when Halo Infinite held its technical flight. 343’s data collection excursion, for the most part, had players facing off against bots, testing only a handful of smaller maps and weapons. It was limited, but it gave players a taste of how Halo Infinite is going to play.
There is a contingency of fans out there who have been saying that it has the feel of Halo 3, but in a modern setting. That feels more like a play to sentimentality and nostalgic excitement towards that game. It’s not a great indicator to the ‘feel’ of Halo Infinite. There is still sprinting, clambering, aim-down-sights… these are things that have always defined ‘modern Halo multiplayer’. No, Halo Infinite’s bedfellow makes entirely more sense as it is the most modern take on Halo multiplayer – it’s Halo 5.
That may give pause to some. Halo 5 has become the weird, forgotten child of the franchise. While it has had nearly six years in the spotlight as the ‘current Halo’, it has been eclipsed by the Master Chief Collection as the go-to Halo destination. Halo 5 is currently unavailable on PC – though you can play its incredible Forge mode – making it one of the harder Halos to play currently. You more or less have to have an Xbox console to play it, going counter to the brands newer ‘play anywhere’ ethos.
On top of that, Halo 5 is far from the most beloved Halo game. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say it’s seen generally as the weakest mainline Halo game. The campaign took some focus away from Master Chief and took some turns that some didn’t care for. Add on top of this, the game came out at a really unfortunate time for the Xbox brand. While some of the damage of the disastrous Xbox One launch was mitigated, the brand was still very much in a rebuilding effort. Microsoft didn’t have the confidence of vision we’ve seen now, and the Xbox One console was flagging quite far behind the PlayStation 4. It simply was not a conducive environment for Halo 5’s multiplayer to properly shine.
That’s a shame too as the multiplayer is excellent. Reviews at the time praised it as one of the best in the series. Playing it today still feels excellent too. It’s audio design and animation marry together to create this booming, bone-shattering feedback that made the combat feel exceptionally tactile. The gunplay is snappy, making the guns feel more like grounded military hardware rather than floaty, hypothetical future and alien weaponry. This is all transferred over into Halo Infinite. The moment to moment play of Halo Infinite feels ripped straight out of Halo 5 for the most part. While Spartan abilities have been largely reduced, meaning you can’t do some of the inherent extravagant moves like an aerial ground pound or a thruster dodge like in Halo 5, the act of merely playing the game feels married to 343’s last effort.
In a lot of ways, Halo Infinite feels like another roll of the dice on Halo 5’s multiplayer. That’s great as well. It deserved better. It was unfortunately straddled with an overall package that came out at a bad time, was attached to one of the lesser loved campaigns and in recent years has been more of a pain to play than most any other Halo game.
Sometimes a game can be great, but the circumstances around it stop it from ever truly reaching its potential. When Mario Kart 8 came out on the Wii U, it was of course, well received. It’s a great Mario Kart game. However, it was not blessed with the best set of circumstances. Mario Kart 7, while generally liked, was only 2 and a half years before and certainly had some detractors. More importantly though, Mario Kart 8 was saddled with the Wii U. It was a great game hamstrung by being attached to a flailing console. Despite selling an impressive 8.45 million copies, meaning that over half of all Wii U owners had a copy of the game, it didn’t reach the heights it could.
That was until the Nintendo Switch and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe launched. The game, while largely similar to the previous iteration, became a megahit. Now strapped to a superstar console, the game had a whole new context to succeed in. As of March 2021, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the best-selling Switch game with an absolutely staggering 35.39 million copies sold.
Halo Infinite is entering a realm much more conducive to success than Halo 5 ever had. It’s been six long years since players have had a new Halo. That absence has made the heart grow fond for community members chomping at the bit for what’s next. On top of that, Halo Infinite will be inheriting a lot of goodwill generated around the Xbox brand.
The excellent service suite, from the extreme value of Game Pass, to the openness of Xbox Cloud Gaming, means that the platform has a lot of consumer goodwill to feed off of. On top of that, and perhaps most importantly, the mode will be free-to-play for all players. Not only are players willing Halo Infinite to be good, they will also be able to play it on just about any platform, for free or get the full experience through Game Pass. It feels that in every way Halo 5 had everything stacked against it, Halo Infinite is propped to hit a homerun.
If that comes to pass, it will be thanks to the bones of 343’s last effort. If Halo Infinite proves to be a complete runaway revival of the franchise, a lot of thanks will be owed to the multiplayer aspects of Halo 5.
Halo Infinite will be out later in 2021.